A beautiful blue sky combined with a bitter cold wind Saturday to make Grayson County’s Relay for Life’s annual event something of a mixed bag.
On the one hand, the day was bright without a real cloud in the sky. But that wind sliced right through people for most of the day. Bad weather is nothing new for the event’s organizers — they have faced everything from torrential rains to life-threatening thunderstorms and heat in the past. But none of that compares to the awfulness faced by those who must battle cancer, and for that reason, Brooke Bond, Teams Lead for Life of Grayson County, said they carried on Saturday.
“Relay is a way for a community to gather together, and support those that are fighting cancer, those that have fought cancer and for those who no longer have the opportunity to fight cancer,” Bond said. “The event is a fundraiser, but it’s also a way for people to come together to build new friendships, remember old friendships and just a great night of fun, activities and food and everything else.”
The group’s goal for the year is $75,000 and they had already reached $61,000 by Saturday. Since Relay for Life has been held in Grayson County, the event has raised more than $1.3 million. Last year, Grayson County raised $61,972.
Bond said while they weren’t letting the weather get them down, there was no denying that some people who would have liked to have been there Saturday stayed home because of temperatures and wind.
“Those who cannot (be here) we will connect with them later to make sure that they get the benefits of tonight,” she said.
One of the benefits that a lot of people talked about at the event was getting to talk to others who have been through what they were going through, whether they were cancer patients or caregivers.
Cancer survivor Wesley Elliott, who was keynote speaker at the Survivor’s lunch Saturday, said her cancer diagnosis came at the end of a decade in which she had been put through the ringer.
“I broke my neck, got a divorce, my father passed away in my arms; I got remarried and he stole my identity and everything I had,” she said. “I got to declare bankruptcy. I got divorce No. 2 and then I got cancer.”
Though she would have never thought it before hand, the cancer actually turned out to be a weird type of blessing, she said.
“It was a little positive in that it allowed me to do some re-evaluating,” Elliott said. “It wasn’t fun. I have to honestly tell you that it wasn’t a cake walk, but you realize how important everyone is and how important life is and the connections that you have with others when you are faced with something like this.”
She said everything else in life moves to second place when a cancer diagnosis lands in a family. Even so, she said, cancer is just one thing about the people who have it. They are not cancer. They are people who have cancer and people who are fighting cancer.
“It gives us kind of a bump in the road that we have the support and the respect from others to overcome,” Elliott said. “I won’t say it is is easy. It is not easy for us and it’s not easy for the caregivers.”
That is one reason that among all of the people who were walking for surviving cancer for 20 years, 10 years, five years and those who were still fighting cancer, there were also people who were walking as caregivers. Elliott said cancer makes people value and appreciate who and what they have in their lives.
The American Cancer Society said last year it provided services to 102 Grayson County residents. Those included 45 personalized health managers for patients and 48 nights of free lodging to patients and their caregivers.